I posted this link last year (Garden bylaw violation rescinded; Naturalized half-acre property in Constance Bay OK — Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund), when I first found it. It helps prepare people for the level of effort we may need to defend having a non-sterile patch of urban land, when we put in a garden or a meadow instead of a lawn. I’m going to discuss similar problems I had in getting started with my urban farm.
This past summer, I had a “guerre de clôture” (fence war) with my next door neighbours. The reason? We shared a front yard, and they didn’t want my temporary barricades being placed on their side to keep my wayward rabbits from escaping. They didn’t want a fence, and they also didn’t want my rabbits to come out, supervised or not.
When I first arrived, our shared front lawn was just a square of green bordered by a box hedge of undetermined age and not the greatest uprightness on my side. As soon as the winter snow melted, I informed them I was creating a flower garden, and dug up the corner beside my front step and planted things that are ever-changing. In Year #3 here, the city came at my request and planted a honey locust in my front corner of the yard. I planted more perennials around that, and this past spring, I hung two bird houses.
Since we weren’t going to agree on sharing a front yard I couldn’t otherwise use, I told them I would install a fence. They said they were “city people” who consider gardening too attention-grabbing, but that won’t stop me from doing good on my property. They didn’t like the idea that a fence declares we don’t get along, either. But if I can’t use my front yard except for a corner flower bed and a tree, then what else is there to do?
In the end, I installed a half-fence – halfway down the property line. I barricaded off the front of it when the bunnies were out, and opened it up when they were not. The fence is rail-and-picket, with lattice-work along the base to inhibit the bunnies from squeezing out. Although, after a week, they were not deterred from jumping the lattice level. On several occasions the doorbell rang, with a pedestrian telling me my bunny was hanging out on someone else’s driveway.
Come autumn, I picked up 15 spindly cedars for a friend’s hedgerow, taking an extra 6 for myself for the back yard. The friend never picked them up before it was the last minute to get them into the ground – so I sold 10 of them, and put the remaining 5 in the front yard, four along the picket fence and one at the “gate” where the barricade used to cross over. But the trees and the existing fence seem too cumbersome. It doesn’t look right. In the spring I’m going to take out whichever ones survived the winter, and move them to the back yard.
What I really want to do is install a farmer’s fences, like you see in the country, using four wooden fence posts upon which I can install bird and bee houses. Page wire fences have a nice, airy transparency that vines can grow along, and something like long grass, or beans, squash, and pumpkin could grow along the base of the row and climb it. To be effective at enclosing the rabbits, I need a short wildlife fence, logarithm-grid style (narrow rows at the bottom, wide at the top), like the Ecomuseum has. It restricts smaller animals’ movements while allowing birds to fly through. This kind of fence – agricultural, in the city – will be good for the garden and local wildlife, and better for the neighbourhood too, compared to a green patch of mowed grass.
And then, I have milkweed seeds and hawthorn berries, and possibly even some sumac. Just you wait, neighbourhood, I am going all feral agricultural on your behalf.